Archive for May, 2011

Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon 5/1/2011

May 22, 2011

On April 19, 1995, some a-hole parked a Ryder van full of fertilizer and explosives in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City and detonated it killing 168 people.  Among the dead were a bunch of children in a daycare just above where the van was parked.  Timothy McVeigh was quickly caught, tried, convicted, and executed for the crime.  Terry Nichols and several others got lengthy prison sentences but were ultimately spared death by flipping on McVeigh and each other while trying to avoid the needle.  The federal building was rebuilt on a site nearby and the original building site has been converted to a memorial to those who perished.  This marathon is run in memory of those killed and to raise funds for the ongoing maintenance and upkeep of the Memorial.

Late spring and early summer is a tricky time to run long distances close to home.  When I put Oklahoma City on the calendar I did it with every intention of waiting until the last minute to decide if I was actually going.  I watched the weather closely and decided on Thursday/Friday to head out on Saturday morning.  TJ and I were the only two originally on board.  As the date approached Hillary signed up.  Then Jerie.  Then on Friday (yes, the day before we left) Rachel jumped in.  TJ flew up solo, the rest of us piled into Kel’s car and drove the 388 miles due north on I-35.  Me (the guy who only likes to stop when the gas tank is empty)…in the car with three girls who are vigorously hydrating for a marathon the next day.  It’s probably not fair to call it a recipe for disaster but it was definitely a recipe for one, one, one slow trip to Oklahoma.  We hadn’t even made it 40 miles when Hillary the first one had to go.  We stopped in Salado, Waco, Fort Worth (combo stop for lunch as well), Ardmore, and Paul’s Valley.  On average, we stopped every 80 miles.  Despite that, we made excellent time arriving in Oklahoma City exactly 6 hours after leaving Austin.

We checked in and hit the expo.  Rachel was leaning towards doing the half but it was sold out so she had to register for the full.  With our packets in hand, the only thing left to do was check the updated weather forecast (rapidly deteriorating) and start making dinner plans.  We found a cool little Italian place, Portofino’s, that was in a building that used to house a PF Changs (big horses still out front).  The service was slow but the food was good and reasonably priced.

Race morning we awoke to temps in the low 50s, rain, lightning, and winds screaming in from the north at 20 mph (bringing more of the same with it).  The start was delayed 30 minutes in an attempt to let the lightning pass through.  It worked, the lightning was gone but the wind and rain stayed and the strong north winds dropped the temperature into the 40s.  We waited until the last minute to leave the hotel which ended up being a mistake.  We couldn’t get closer than two blocks away from bag drop before the crowd of runners and spectators got too thick to allow forward (really backward) progress.  We basically got stuck and had to wait for the race to start to cover the remaining two blocks in the opposite direction to drop our bags.  Once dropped, we worked our way forward and crossed the starting line about eleven and a half minutes after the race had started.  Chip timing minimizes the impact of this but what it doesn’t do is thin the crowd much.  Starting that far back means a lot of weaving early on.  It probably took us two miles to get to a point where the crowd was moving at about our desired pace (roughly 9 minutes per mile).  TJ and Hillary got themselves to the starting line on time so they didn’t have to deal with any of this.

I’m not sure why, but I decided to wear the Garmin for this race.  Jerie, Rachel, and I planned on running the whole race together and wanted to run right at 4 hours…or slightly under.  I’ve done shorter races in conditions like we were running in but never a marathon.  The wind wasn’t a big deal but mixed with the steady rain and cool temps it made for an interesting day.  I usually attempt to gauge my future misery by how quickly I start sweating.  Sweating within a mile means an epic meltdown is close at hand, sweating after six or seven miles is usually a good sign.  Being completely drenched from the start throws that measure out the window so, for today only, I decide to use my frozen fingers as a gauge.

Miles 1 – 5, after a perfect 10:00 minute mile one and a 9:40 mile two we get on track and end up averaging 9:21 through here.  After a mile, Jerie and I lost Rachel in the crowd.  We didn’t know if she was ahead of or behind us so we marched forward.  It is highly unusual for my hands to stay cold after two miles even in the coldest of conditions.  At this point they are still completely numb.

Miles 6 – 10, definitely in a groove now.  Clipping along at an average of 8:57.  My hands are so cold my fingers are actually starting to hurt.  Jerie is handing me an occasional gel blast (cola flavored, yum!)…and I just have to kinda slurp them up out of my palm.  I cannot pinch them between two fingers.

Miles 11 – 15, it’s pretty flat through here plus I stopped to tinkle and Jerie kept going.  I had to speed up a little to catch her and ended up averaging 8:45.  I went through the half in 2:01:31 so I’m set up pretty well for another negative split assuming we can pull off the sub 4.  I have lost all manual dexterity in my fingers.  I find myself pumping my fingers for the better part of the time between miles…only stopping to check my split when the watch beeps.  I’m actually starting to wonder if I’ll ever be able to feel my digits again.

Miles 16 – 20, the sun actually came out at mile 17!!  It didn’t stay long though.  Just long enough for my fingers to thaw out and for Jerie to remove (and discard) her trash bag, plastic gloves, and real gloves.  By mile 18 it was raining harder than before, the temp had dropped another 5 degrees, and the wind was gusting up to 30 mph.  Mile 20 is a rocking downhill and helped us eke out an 8:59 pace through here.  Oh, and I can’t feel my fingers again.

Miles 21 – 26.2, we realize that we are going to be very, very close to 4 hours.  I think we even tried to speed up when we could.  Miles 20 to 24 were a long, slow climb and we were having a hard time keeping them close to 9.  We took turns pulling and, when we could make words, tried to encourage each other and keep each other focused.  I didn’t have my heart rate monitor strap on but I’m pretty sure I know what it would have said…I was giving it all I could and I think Jerie was too.  We averaged 9:12 per and crossed the line in 4:01:41.  I couldn’t actually push the stop button on my watch so I had to wait for the official results to confirm this.  The official results also confirmed another negative split (this time by a whopping minute and twenty seconds)!

Full details here.

If you’ve ever run a marathon you probably know first hand the frustration of knowing that you’re going to be very close to your goal time but really have no energy reserve left to tap to shave off a minute and some change (or even 10 – 15 seconds per mile over the last several) to get it done.  We knew, we tried, it just wasn’t in the cards that day.

Oklahoma City uses the RunPix technology as a supplement to their regular results.  To illustrate just what I mean when I say we left it all out there…their tracking system says we passed 153 runners in the final 10k and were passed by none.  You’ve probably read enough of my reports to know that I don’t roll like that.  That was all Jerie and I’m just glad I was able to hang on for dear life to her very wet coattails all the way to the finish line.

So, we’ve crossed the finish line…the race should be over, right?  Wrong!  I grab a water, a fig newton, and a cookie and start sleestacking my way out of the finisher’s chute.  Towards the end there is a Carl’s Jr. mobile grill set up and they are churning out the FREE burgers as fast as they can.  As awesome as it looks…I just can’t do it.  We grab our finisher’s t-shirts and check the reunion area for Rachel, Hillary, and TJ.  Empty…duh, it’s raining like gangbusters and the wind is really picking up now.  We’re only a few blocks north of our hotel so we start the walk back.  That north wind is hitting me in the back so hard my neck is cramping!  Then I start getting pelted with hail!!  We duck into the massage tent and wait for it to pass.  It does and now we really start to worry about everyone else…hoping that they’re finished or at least able to find cover.

I finally get back to the room but cannot get warm.  I put on dry clothes and get under two down comforters but am still shivering.  I take a long, hot shower but start shivering again immediately after getting out.  I get back under the covers but this time I take the hairdryer with me.  That does the trick!

We head out to a sports bar for some recovery grub.  I down an excellent burger and fries but have to limit my beer intake to one (gotta drive home).  We hit the road and are not at all surprised to learn that all that crappy weather is basically trapped on the I-35 corridor.  There are a few wrecks, lots of construction, and more hail so the trip home takes about 2 hours longer than the trip up.  I did learn that mildly dehydrated girls (who have just run a marathon) sleep more and pee less than girls who haven’t.

The highlight of the return trip was the obligatory Blizzard stop!  It really hit the spot!!

Oklahoma City is definitely a marathon worth doing.  It was my 25th marathon and my 14th state. 

Next up, The Deadwood Mickelson Trail Marathon on June 5th in South Dakota.


Hogeye Marathon 4/10/2011

May 7, 2011

The Hogeye Marathon (Fayetteville, AR) celebrated its 35th running by abusing my fat ass for five hours, eighteen minutes, and nearly thirty-three seconds.  The course was tough, the weather was brutal, and there was one VERY long gap (ok, two) between aid stations at a fairly crucial spot in the race.  Hey, it’s a freaking marathon…when is it ever a good idea to jam over 4 miles between water stops?  I know, I know…I sound a little bitter.  Just think how bad I’d be ranting if I hadn’t waited over three weeks to type this out!

I originally had a different marathon, the Garmin Olathe Marathon (Olathe, KS), on the calendar but let Rachel talk me into going to Arkansas.  Her and her husband went to school at the University of Arkansas and were heading up there to visit friends and family.  I decided to tag along.  Meeting and hanging out with their friends was definitely the highlight of the trip, the race and everything associated with it was at the complete opposite end of the spectrum.

The Course – I knew it was not an easy one.  Eyes wide open there.  That being said, it was even harder than I anticipated.  Just driving around town you could tell it was going to hurt.  Not a lot of flat spots anywhere.  I heard a rumor that Jeff Galloway had it on his list of toughest courses…I did not attempt to confirm this but, in any event, agree wholeheartedly.

The Weather – warm, humid, and windy.  Oddly, the wind actually made it seem bearable early in the morning but that faded quickly.  If you’ve ever run in a strong wind you know the sensation of feeling relatively cool when it’s hitting you head on (even while it’s making you work harder) and then how quickly you warm up when it dies down a little or is at your tail.  The twists and turns of the course really exaggerated the effect.

The Training – since I’ve been running marathons every three weeks for the last few months I haven’t been “training” a whole lot in between.  I try to recover for a week after, work hard in the middle week, and taper the week of.  One thing I’ve noticed for sure (and you may have as well) is that the limited training isn’t doing me any favors in terms of losing or keeping weight off.  Complicating that is my growing affection for bourbon.  My buddy Dan (proprietor of Garrison Brothers Bourbon) released a limited run of the good stuff he’s had in barrels for a few years and I like it.  A lot.  Ok, a little too much.

So, put those three (course, weather, training) together and you pretty much get what happened next.  Total annihilation.

Miles 1 – 5, I averaged 9:24 per through here.  Actually started with a 9:26, ran three 9:24s, and rounded it out with a 9:25.  Even with the wind I was drenched in sweat within the first mile…a harbinger of things to come.  A half mile in brought the first, but certainly not last, significant climb of the day.

Miles 6 – 10, the average bumped up to 9:37 through here.  There was one substantial climb but I think net/net this was a mostly downhill section.  We passed a our first pig farm, or at least the scent of one, in here.  I prefer dead pig to live pig…hands down.

Miles 11 – 15, rocking through here at an 11:18 pace.  I walked a pretty good chunk of mile 15.  This portion is basically the “out” portion of a long out and back section in Lake Fayetteville Park.  I recall a water stop around 11 and another one around the turnaround at 15…if there was something in between I missed it!  The blisters on the balls of my feet that came on a little during Virginia Beach are coming back now with a vengeance.  It’s going to be a loooooong day.

Miles 16 – 20, 13:57 pace is all I can muster through this portion.  The sun is out, the temp is soaring, my feet are on fire, and I am officially toast.  The lack of aid stations through here are certainly not helping.  I am seriously considering walking it in (I would hitch a ride if I could).

Miles 21 – 26.2, I average around 15:41 a mile for my “big finish.”  I know I walk ALL of mile 22 in a 17:38.  I run a little each mile but am really just trying to get to the finish line.

In addition to the customary finisher’s medal, I received a couple of additional trophies for completing Hogeye:

These blisters, especially that blood filled one on the right foot, were 100% attributable to my shoes.  New Balance “updated” my trusty 1225 to the 1226.  Apparently the 1226 had a special insert added to the forefoot that creates massive blisters at around mile 11.  I’m not always proud of my reaction to things that disappoint me…below is my reaction to this unpleasant experience:

The last eight pairs of size 11.5 New Balance 1225 that I could find anywhere in the world are now in my closet.  Unfortunately, that only puts off the inevitable for about 18 months.

In closing, Hogeye was my 24th and slowest marathon ever.  13th state.  Next up, Oklahoma City on May 1.  Are we having fun yet??